Heading to one or more of the great cities in Europe? Getting the most out of your city experience takes a special kind of planning. Here are our tips to help you make the most of your trip.
1. Map it
Do some critical thinking about what you want to see and do on your trip, and what themes you wish to explore. Look at maps to group sites by location. Set up some potential day itineraries, but always keep your planning loose enough to accommodate shifts in the weather or your energy or desires. Good planning leaves room for spontaneity.
2. Get outta town
Maybe you’ve heard the expression “I’ve never been to France. I’ve only been to Paris.” Staying in a city center only gives you part of the story of a country and its culture. Plan at least one excursion out of the city.
3. Reservations please
Make your reservations for museums and other sights online ahead of time.
In Paris, reserve the Eiffel Tower.
In Barcelona, reserve Sagrada Familia.
In the Florence, reserve the Uffizi Museum and the Galleria dell’Accademia.
In Rome reserve the Vatican Museum / Sistine Chapel.
Be sure you are up to the walking that city travel requires. Before your trip, get in shape and walk to build stamina. Now is a good time to break in those new walking shoes too. Blisters will slow you down in Florence or Paris. Better to get ready ahead of time.
5. Power up
Get your tech tools ready. Take time to clear memory space on phones and cameras. Download helpful apps and ebooks, including city-specific ones like transportation and museums guides. Many museums have apps that offer tours and collection highlights.
6. Plan your grub
Research restaurants before you go. Look for local food blogs and sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon that attract reviews from locals (who eat in the restaurants more than once) rather than Trip Advisor, whose writers are only passing through. Also, consider booking a meal in someone’s home on EatWith.
Read about the local events, current affairs, and culture of the city before you go. Look for novels set in the location and nonfiction titles about the history of the region, cultural context, and artistic and intellectual heritage of the place. Also seek out contemporary info from blogs.
8. What’s on?
Check local listings on sites like Time Out before you go to find out what’s on. What exhibits are the local museums showing? Do museums have evening hours or openings, where you can mix and mingle with the locals. What concerts are on? Book opera and symphony tickets in advance.
Details: A local contact or travel planner can help you with all but item 4 on this list. Be sure to find a well connected local or a seasoned expert on your location. The right helper can make museum and dinner reservations, track down concert tickets, and suggest the best blogs, apps, and books to help you appreciate their city. Private Access Journeys offers Experience Coordinators in Paris, Florence, and Barcelona who can do all of this and much more!